Friday, March 18, 2011

Private Prisons?

Though the jury is still out on the effectiveness of private versus public prisons in terms of recidivism rates, the good pay and job security offered by the public sector—which is well deserved by correctional professionals—is an asset that should not be lost in any transfer to private control, as this article from the Columbus Dispatch reports is being considered in Ohio.

An excerpt.

“While Gov. John Kasich's plan to sell four prisons promises to raise much-needed cash for the state, the news isn't so good for affected employees who could see their pay cut by one-third and lose paid health-care benefits.

“Kasich is expected to propose selling the prisons, plus the closed Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility, in his two-year budget plan to be unveiled today.

“That budget is expected to include few gimmicks but a wide variety of cuts, including a significant whack to local governments, both in the direct local-government funding and in reimbursements for the eliminated tangible personal-property tax. And while grades K-12 and universities are going to see cuts because of the loss of federal stimulus money, sources say they are not expected to be as dire as some have predicted.

“Kasich is expected to focus on government reform today when he officially rolls out his two-year plan, stressing ways for government to do things differently, and with less money. He is expected to introduce a plan to privatize Ohio's liquor-sales operation to help fund JobsOhio, his new public-private entity that is taking over the state's economic-development efforts. The introduced version of the budget is not expected to include a leasing of the Ohio Turnpike, but the idea is likely to get continued discussion. Same goes for an elimination of the estate tax, which is under debate in the legislature.

“If approved by the General Assembly in the budget process, the prison sales would produce an estimated $200million for state coffers. In addition, there would be annual savings on operating costs, probably a minimum of 5 percent as required by current state law. The state would contract with the new owner-operator to house and care for inmates.

“It also would mean that about 800 employees, including 475 corrections officers, would lose state jobs. Sources said employees would receive hiring "preference," but not guarantees, from the new owners.

“The silver lining for the communities could be new property-tax revenue when prisons go from tax-exempt state ownership to taxable private ownership. One source estimated that to be from $400,000 to $1 million per year for each institution.”